Past and Present
Adams vs. Jefferson: Divisions in the Nation’s Foundations?
“You are afraid of the one – I, of the few.”John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, Dec. 6, 1787
The creation of the U.S. republic represents a fascinating historical period full of political debates and ideological skirmishes between the people who are now revered as “the Founding Fathers” of the American nation. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and several others all belonged to a group of men of first rate intellect and each of them strived to implement his own political ideas and shape the contours of the young republic after achieving independence.
This article examines the political thought of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Both influenced U.S. politics from the very beginning of the American Revolution, and both played significant roles during the early years of the U.S. republic, becoming the second and the third U.S. presidents. Despite the fact that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were long-time friends and close collaborators during the time of the American Revolution, there were profound divisions in their political thought and their concepts of republican government. These differences demonstrate the limits of political consensus already among the Founding Fathers. After the successful revolution, both statesmen went on to represent opposite poles on the U.S. political map, and they strove to implement their political ideas and influence the ideological foundations of the U.S. as a nation. While Adams advanced conservative agendas, Jefferson was open to progressive political experiments – and both statesmen clearly articulated...
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